Of all three Fire Emblem Fates titles, Revelation is the most rewarding. It marries the best parts of sister titles Birthright and Conquest, offering varying maps with complex and often interactive terrain, as well as ample opportunities to grind for experience and build relationships between members of its warrings kingdoms. Whether you're carefully maneuvering your troops to make the best use of floating platforms to rout the enemy, or pairing up the heir to the Hoshido throne with the eldest princess of Nohr and praying they birth an amazing child, there is a lot of love in nearly every facet of its design.
Revelation's first six chapters are the same all the other Fates' titles: the family that has raised you, the royals of Nohr, are not related to you by blood. You are a lost prince or princess of the Hoshido kingdom, a neighboring nation at war with Nohr. On the battlefield, as your siblings both blood and adopted close in on you, begging you to return to them, you are given a choice: side with one or the other. Revelation, however, offers a third option: choose to side with neither.
Option three makes you a traitor to both, and when they all disown you, it's just you and your new best friend, the songstress Azura, on the run. With Azura's help you discover the real cause behind the war and set out to convince both families and their allies to fight together to stop it--though you can't tell them exactly what's happening because of a curse that will melt you if the truth is spoken. This is a very convenient way to create an inconvenience, and you spend much of the story trying to rally everyone to your cause without being able to tell them what exactly it is. Predictably, no one believes you because of the cagey details you give. It's laughable, and isn't melodrama so much as it is lazy writing. But, happily, this is the only piece of Revelation's story that lacks meaning, and although it's a weak excuse for characters to mistrust you, the resulting dialogue and twists are both entertaining and at times genuinely affecting.
For example, the toughest nuts your must crack are Ryoma and Xander, the respective heirs of Hoshido and Nohr. Both dismiss you as brainwashed or of traitorous intent, but watching them warm up to you as you go through hoops to prove the truth makes for a sweet, somewhat heartbreaking tale. Along the way, as each of your siblings on both sides decide to stand by you, you'll obtain the talents of them as well as their guardians. Having fighters on both sides of the battle makes for interesting subplots back at home base. It also gives you access to a slew of romantic pairings not available in Birthright or Conquest, because neither granted you the retinue of fighters on both sides of the war at once. Watching stoic Takumi fall for flirtatious Camilla was entertaining, while seeing my right-hand ninja Kaze warm up to sweet little Elise was just plain adorable. Fire Emblem has always excelled at creating cute side stories among its supporting cast, and Revelation will pleasantly drown you in them.
Revelation follows the same weapons triangle as Birthright. Sword attacks and magic triumph over ranged weapons such as bows, bows and the like are stronger against smaller weapons and lances, and these are more useful against swords and spells. Your generous cast lets you build out an effective troop each time around, with a handful of archers, casters, melee combatants and horse-riding lancers both in the sky and on the ground. You will always have what you need, and it's up to you how to direct them along each map's turn-based grid system. This is Fire Emblem's tried-and-true formula, and it is still as effective and enjoyable as it's ever been. There's something magical about creating a well-oiled machine on the battlefield that then goes home at night and flirts with itself.
Like Birthright, Revelation gives you ample access to resources and grinding opportunities. Your castle is stocked with pearl springs and topaz mines, as well as berry gardens and wheat fields; you'll never run out of gems to trade for accessories or food for your troops. The Scout feature is available, where you can endlessly generate optional missions on the world map. But what makes Revelation really stand out from its sister titles is its maps. Revelation's map design is intricate, with most including complex interactive elements.
The Dragon Veins feature in the other games--points where members of either royal bloodline can do things like crumble mountains or calm a blowing wind--is present, but in more varied ways. One map requires you to teleport six teams to opposite points on a map to unlock parts of a door, and upon completion reveal two more lock spots to navigate to. Another map features bridges that float between islands suspended in the sky; the blocks move around each turn, and it's a challenge ushering your troops onto each one in a way that is both quick and efficient in routing the enemy. Other maps are completely blacked out by darkness or ice, forcing you to move units relentlessly forward in order to reveal pathways to the exit and hiding enemies. And as your enemies move they try to block in your archers and take down your healers, necessitating you carefully plan a simultaneous offense and defense. It's a brilliant approach to creating more meaningful challenges on the battlefield, and I never got bored as a result. I was consistently excited to tackle each new map, eager to see what kind of puzzle lay before me and build new strategies.
Both Birthright and Conquet suffered from moments of saccharine melodrama, but this is not the case with Revelation. Its plots or more coherent and frankly more exciting, as both families come to terms with the mess they made and begin to trust one another. The character you create is at the center of this drama, and is constantly being slapped around for not being able to speak the truth, or for being too trusting, or not trusting enough. Until the game's final hours, you are under a constant emotional barrage from all sides. This makes the story sad and frustrating, weaving some beautifully anxiety-inducing moments, but it also feels organic. Of course it would take someone a while to trust you after refusing to fight for their cause, and of course it would take them even longer to buy your crackpot chattering about why. Revelation's dialogue carries its drama proudly, and when major twists occur, they are surprisingly difficult to predict.
This excellent story is capped off by what is undoubtedly the most epic final showdown of the Fates games. Cutscenes and enemies are unsettling, and our characters' acts of passion ring strong. It is a cataclysmic event with an enormous payoff, an emotionally satisfying sign-off for the tale of Hoshido and Nohr.
Between the seemingly endless romance opportunities and the ever-evolving challenges of its missions, Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation is an incredible accomplishment in marriage of storytelling and gameplay. Its challenges are rewarding, and its story is wonderfully told, with high emotional points that deliver in big ways come the ending. To borrow the cliche, there is a never a dull moment, between building and honing your army and the intimate moments between characters. With everyone Revelation places at your disposal, you really feel as though you are accomplishing something, amassing troops to stop a war, truly creating something meaningful with the siblings and friends who fight beside you. It's a beautiful game.